Saying Yes (and no) and Making a Living

Saying Yes (and no) and Making a Living

I’ll start off this post by saying that this opinion is going to be unpopular with some writers and some freelancers.

Tough.

I did not get to where I am today by second guessing certain truths about the writing business as it is today, and what it takes to make a living writing. While there are some things that are open to interpretation and even debate, there are some things that are simple facts. Here are some hard truths about saying yes, saying no, and making a living writing.

The Writing Game is Fickle

There are few other professions that are like any of the arts. From writing to music, from art to film, the one common question is, “What have you done for me lately?” In other words, if you wrote a great article on Huffington Post three years ago, it makes no difference on your resume.

The same is true even if you had a New York Times Bestseller even a year ago. To a publisher and to an extent your readers, the question is “What is your current project?” or “What is next?” Your past success only holds water (and makes you money) for a very limited time.

In order to make a living writing, you have to be doing something now. You have to have something coming next. If you are relying on your backlist, or the project you did last year to keep earning for you or even keep impressing readers and clients, you are in for a rude awakening.

Think about it. Even your local, indie bookstore who really likes your work will only keep your print book on the shelf for about six months, unless you have a series that is selling, which means the next book in the series comes out in that time period or shortly thereafter. Why? Because that’s how long your book will sell in their store before it becomes stale, and they are running a business too.

The time to write the next book is now. You’ve already said yes when you said you wanted to do this for a living.

Cashflow Matters

On a pretty regular basis I hear from freelancers and from authors that they get big paydays and then can go a long time without another one. And it is true. If you are traditionally published, you might get an advance on your novel, but not get a royalty check for a whole year. (an advance is just a loan on anticipated earnings if we are being honest here).

So what do you do between those times? You have to manage your money, and it also might mean saying yes to smaller projects where you don’t earn as much, but you earn it now. As an author, that might mean short stories for paying markets, online or physical. For a freelancer, it might mean supplementing with smaller projects between the large ones.

It also means being aware of the fact that you might not have another payday for a while, and planning accordingly. That advance check is not the time to go pay cash for a new car, unless that really will save you money over time. It is time to look at short term investments, interest bearing checking, savings plans, and even at paying yourself a salary (read, allowance) that you must live within every month.

What that means is that you must say yes to those smaller, shorter term assignments or projects. Turning down work is turning down money. Saying yes does a couple of things for you. It enhances your “What have you done for me lately?” resume. And it gives you cash, money you can add to your current cashflow.

A Quick Note on “No”

Does that mean you always say “yes” in order to make a living? No, not at all. There are absolutely times when you should say ‘no.”

  • Doing things for “exposure.” So far, no stores I have encountered take an exposure card. There are few exceptions to doing things for free to get exposure. Most of the time, this is a time to say “no thanks.” Be polite. You never know when there might be a paying opportunity with the same group or organization. Simply say, “I can’t work for free. But when you have a budget, I would be happy to work with you at that time.”
  • Doing things for a deep discount. Your time and your writing are worth money. Just like you should not work for free, you should have standard rates that you work for, freelance or fiction. If you invest your time, you should expect the return of some love. Love, in this case, is defined as hopefully several numbers, preceded by a dollar sign, and with the only zeroes being the two that follow a decimal point.
  • Doing things you hate. Are you a mystery writer who hates reading and writing romance? Then don’t accept a gig editing romance, reading romance, or worse, ghostwriting romance. First of all, your work will not be as good if you hate it. Second, you will be miserable. We all do this writing thing because we love it, right? Don’t compromise that by doing work you despise.

However, there are exceptions. As a freelancer, you might write articles that are not your favorite. As an author, you may be asked to judge a competition and read stories that are not your favorite. If you are getting paid enough though, it may be worth slogging through it, especially if you are struggling with cashflow.

Second, you might work for exposure from time to time. Writer’s conferences, judging competitions, and even some speaking engagements to writer’s groups can make a huge difference to you selling books, or may offer you an in with a new audience.

You have to evaluate things on the basis of what actually makes you enough money and what works for you. Go with your gut. It is okay to say “no” if something just doesn’t fit your objectives and where you are headed with your career.

Examples of “Yes”

Want some examples? Here are three from my own career:

Q: “Can you help us with our blog content?”

A: “Yes, I can. I charge $xxx.xx per blog post. But I notice your topics are rather random. Would you like additional help on content strategy?”

Result: The client answered “tell me more” to my question. The result? A one year contract, over 18 months of work at $3,000 per month, and continuing ongoing work even now. All because I said “yes” to the first question.

By the way, it was a couple of months between my “yes” and my “your topics are kind of random” declaration. First, I established trust in my writing ability and showed I had the client’s best interests at heart.

Q: “I need someone with a religious background and some Bible knowledge who shares my opinions on both to write a book with me. Are you interested?”

A: “Yes. Tell me more.”

Result: The book Satanarium, written with a woman named Poppet, who is from South Africa and someone I have never met in person. It was picked up and published by Wild Wolf press in the UK. Why does that matter?

Not only did we sell some books, but Wild Wolf is on the accepted publisher list for the International Thriller Writers, which is why I am a lifetime associate member and pay no dues, ever. I also learned a ton about collaboration, and I had a great time.

Q: “I have a story to tell about my life as a xxxxxx, and I have written a lot of it down. But I don’t know how to put it in a book. Can you help me?”

A: “Yes. I usually start with a block of hours until we figure out the scope of your project, and then we will set a price to finish it. Sound good?”

Result: My first large ghostwriting assignment. This helped put me on the map with ghostwriting and earned me some serious money. It opened my eyes to a new kind of writing, one I could supplement my fiction with and improve my cashflow.

Are there times when I said “yes” and it did not work out well? Yep. Are there times when I said “no” and I wish I had said “yes”? Also, yep. You can’t win them all.

But you can make a difference in your writing career and income by being open to saying “yes” even when it makes you a little uncomfortable. In fact, that is probably the best time of all to agree. You’ll grow as a person too, and you may be surprised what doors will open as a result.

The Tools We Use: Hosting and Domain Registration

The Tools We Use: Hosting and Domain Registration

Often, writer’s don’t think much about things like web security, GDPR, and other things most businesses must, and do think about. There are two issues with that. The first is that if we are going to treat writing as a business, we have to think about these things and factor them into our business. The second is that your website is a vital part of your author platform.

What do we mean by your author platform? It means the assets you can control and that you own. You own your website or websites, your email list, and your followers along with the books, blogs, and other materials you have written and hold the copyright to. You do not control (or really own) your Amazon Author Central, your Goodreads profile, your BookBub profile or followers, or anything on social media or a third-party site. You could lose your Amazon account tomorrow. It’s not likely, but it has happened to authors and could happen again.

So let’s look at domain name registration, hosting, and the other things that go with having your own website.

Domain Name Registration

Please, authors, for the love of all that is holy, don’t get a generic free WordPress site or one of the ones from Weebly or BlogSpot. You need to own your domain name, and the free ones you get from these sites are not personalized and not ones that you own. By the time you pay to personalize the, you could have purchased a real domain name.

Register your domain for as long as possible. Most of the time, you can buy domain names through the person or company who handles your hosting. More on that in a moment. Most domains will not cost you more than $15 per year to register, and for most, a WordPress install is pretty easy to do. We’ll talk more about website builders and design in a sec, and probably in deeper detail in a later post. The key is that you need to search for your domain name, and purchase it.

That can be your name, or related to what you do. I have troylambertwrites.com and several subdomains of that site, including writingasabusiness.troylambertwrites.com. One of those two places is where you are reading this content right now. Include these in your hosting package for one simple reason: then you only have one place to go when you need to renew things or change them.

Website Hosting

There are all kinds of hosts out there, from JustHost to GoDaddy to a bunch of other small ones. What is the big deal about which one you use? It makes a huge difference in reliability, customer service, cost, maintenance, and a variety of other factors. I use a smaller one, called Hosting for Writers. Here are the reasons (and why they matter). A side note: before I had them, I had JustHost and what was known as BlueHost, then taken over by JustHost anyway.  There were disadvantages to those big providers that I don’t have with Hosting for Writers.

  • Reliability: My sites are rarely down, and if they are, I know a real person is working on getting them back up as soon as possible.
  • Customer service: No online chatbots or endless waits. I email a person, and that person works to fix my issue, often above and beyond what would be considered normal.
  • Speed: This is big. You are a small writer in a big pond of business sites for large providers. Need more space on a server or greater speed? You are going to pay, and probably pay big.
  • Costs: That is where cost comes in. With a small host, you know what you are paying for and what you get. There are no hidden charges or fees that suddenly appear or come up. If you go beyond certain traffic numbers or space on the server, you will be offered more, but it will be a much less pushy and certainly not automatic occurrence.
  • Other features: Look, most hosts charge for extra features and services, and that can add up fast. Often these are a part of packages, a big part of which you don’t need. With Hosting for Writers, what you see is what you get, and that is a lot, including security upgrades and help, plugins, and even access to themes.

If you are going to have a website you have to host it somewhere. It might as well be somewhere you know and trust. It is important to understand another aspect of hosting that really affects cost, and as you get more traffic, one you really need to consider.

That is the type of hosting. There are two, shared and dedicated. Most authors do not have enough traffic to need a dedicated host, but once you do, it is good to know you have the option. Shared hosting means you share a server with other sites. If they are exceptionally busy, they can affect your site speed. Shared hosting is the cheapest and simplest of all hosting plans. Dedicated hosting is when you have a server all to yourself. This is great for large sites, but is expensive. It is just good to know you have the option from your host when you need it, and that they have the space to accommodate you without you having to pay an arm and a leg for it.

Security

This is number one, and something many writers never think about until their site is hacked. Which happens often. In fact, it just happened to a friend of mine a few months ago who blogged about it here. There are some good tips in that article, but one thing she mentions right away. Her site, a shared one, was shut down by her host without warning, and she was told to fix the security issues with her site herself.

The host directed her to a security company they partner with to fix the problem, which they offered to do at a rate of $140 a month–way too much money. There are better ways to go about this, and eventually this friend figured them out, but not without a lot of time and frustration.

There are security plugins that will help, and things you can do to protect yourself. If you have the right host, they will recommend them for you. I remember when my site was hacked a few years ago now. I had a backup, a great host, and my site was up and running very quickly–with a real person’s help, and I really did not lose that much at all.

Since then, with firewalls and other security in place, I have not been hacked in quite a while. Knock on wood. If it does happen, I know I have a host who is also a web developer and security freak herself, on my side.

GDPR and Other Stuff

Do you sell anything at all on your site? Allow comments/ Collect user information for almost any reason at all? Then you need to be GDPR compliant the same as you are with MailChimp or whoever your newsletter software company is. The right host will help. The wrong host won’t. The right host will warn you of possible violations and make sure you are in compliance. Don’t neglect this–fines from the EU can be steep.

Other Stuff

Your host probably has a whole bunch of sites, so they have buying power you do not. That means they can get plugins, themes, and other items much cheaper than you can, and pass those savings on to you. A smaller host will do just that–it is in their best interest that you succeed. A larger host in many cases will charge you for every little add-on. while It’s understandable that they need to make money, it is also important for you to save money where you can.

Writers typically do not make a lot of money, and your site may take a while to even pay for itself, and the money you have invested in creating and securing it. If, like hosting for writers, your host can offer you things at a cut rate or in some cases even free, take advantage of them.

In short, the right host will be more than just a host. They will also be your tech support, and your help when you need it. They will offer services, recommendations, and service that will make you want to stay for years. I’ve just signed on with Hosting for Writers for the next five years. Why? I see no need to change when you have a good thing going, and it saves me a ton of money to commit.

There are a lot of hosting and domain name choices out there, along with other services like web design, security, and more. Going with a company that offers as many of the solutions as possible in one place, and that involves real people rather than chatbots and impersonal service, is likely a better choice for your writing website.

Feel free to comment your experiences below, and reach out if you have questions to info-at_troylambertwrites.com.

The Tools We Use: Mac vs. PC Revisited

The Tools We Use: Mac vs. PC Revisited

It’s been several years since I revisited this debate, and part of that is because I chose to go with Apple the last time I was due for a computer upgrade, and I was extremely happy with my choice. However, during that period of time, other things have changed, and actually there are more options now than there have been in a long time for writers and freelancers, especially those on the go.

Recently, I came to the inevitable conclusion that my old MacBook Pro, a 2013 version, was due for replacing. Now true, I was using it as my main computer, docking it when I was home, and using it as a laptop on the go.

I also confess that I am a power user. As a freelancer and when I am writing, I tend to have several dozen windows open at once, several tabs on my browser, and I am darting back and forth like a hummingbird between feeders.

Then there is the whole keyboard controversy around the MacBook. Since I usually use a Bluetooth keyboard at home, the laptop keyboard only matters when I am on the go, and I don’t do a lot of writing on the road. However, it’s enough of a concern that I did have to at least take it into account.

So let’s look at the pros and cons of each, and at the end, I’ll tell you what I bought and why.

Price vs. Features

I can hear my PC friends clamoring for attention already. They are going to tell me how many PCs they can buy for the price of one MacBook pro, and I hear them. But there is another set of factors, and that is speed and features. For me, I want a super-fast processor, great graphics that are easier on my eyes, and a decent sized screen for on the go. (More on screens soon)

So when you start comparing features that really matter to me, you start getting into more of a gaming style PC to get the graphics, speed, and memory I want.  Which means that the prices are suddenly nearly comparable.

For example, the new Microsoft Surface almost equals the MacBook, but I am not a fan of their keyboards for the most part, although the tablet flexibility is nice—but that brings me to the option that I could do similar things with the newer iPad Pros with a little cost savings. But more on operating systems and other issues in the next section.

Suffice it so say that when you get to similar speed and features, the price stops being as much of a factor as it was previously. If you can get by with less memory and speed, PC does have an edge. Apple products generally last longer, but when you compare the price of some lower end PCs and a the Mac Air, the PC is much more affordable.

Operating Systems

I do have a confession to make. When Windows 8 made its not so illustrious debut, I was less than impressed. Windows 10? Please. In short, I hate Windows operating systems since the demise of Windows 7 Professional. There have been improvements, but they have not been sufficient to mitigate my loathing for them. They are tolerable, but hardly my favorites. I know you can custom configure Windows, and there are solutions.

I took this into account as I looked at new systems. The thing is, I love Apple operating systems, and since I have an iPhone, the seamless integration and the ease of moving from one to another has a certain appeal.

The other issue is security. I love the fewer viruses and other issues with Mac, the less frequent updates, and the more security and privacy features available.

At least for me, that means that Apple wins in this category too. There are other options though, and we will look at those next in our comparison.

Mobile vs. Home Office vs. Combos

This is where things actually got tricky for me. Despite my loathing for Windows OS in general, there is something to be said for mobile systems, docking at home, and dedicated desktops of various types.

So I started to look carefully at those options. The Microsoft Surface makes a good argument for convertibles, something that can be both a tablet and a laptop. Add in that it is easily dockable, and you have a pretty good home system.

Of course, the other option is to have two machines, one desktop and one mobile. There are some interesting choices in this area, but where PC pulls ahead is that both devices, Windows tablets and the Surface for example, and the desktop use the same OS. Everything easily translates.

Apple has tried to solve this by building the “Files” bridge between iOS (for phones and iPads) and MacOS for laptops and desktops. It works, to a point, as long as you are logged into the same iCloud account. However, there are some programs that are not available as iOS apps, so using them mobile means you still need a laptop.

Apple is trying to resolve this too, with a new OS coming soon to iPad, an effort to make it even more like a laptop. It may work too and might win me over if they can really pull it off, so they have what is more their own version of a Surface type device.

But by the time you get an iMac (recently updated, thankfully) as a dedicated desktop, or a mini or one of the other various options, and then get an iPad on top of that, you are easily over the price of a well-appointed MacBook that will frankly be faster than both of the others.

The same is true with PC. By the time I get a desktop with the memory and features I want, along with a decent monitor, I’m still in the same price neighborhood. Then it goes back again to the option of docking a laptop, and some things that are again more personal preference than anything else.

Monitors and Docking

Apple, please. For years now, your monitors in your stores and online are outrageous for what you get. It is like you haven’t heard of New Egg, Best Buy open box, or even Costco. Your monitors are way overpriced. Docking is pretty easy with the new USB-C, but I don’t need your dedicated monitor for one cord docking and power pass through.

Docking stations that also have other ports are cheap and easy to come by too. Even fancy ones, at a little over $100, are pretty reasonable all things considered. So don’t try to sell me some Apple exclusive thing that is ridiculously overpriced. Partner with good vendors, make a good, but reasonable monitor (not $6000) and offer it to me.

This isn’t hard. The LG 4K on my desk now is bigger and was half the price of what you offer in store. And it’s better. End of rant. Non-Apple exclusive monitors and docking are the best option, even if you are an Apple die-hard.

Longevity

This is probably the biggest factor for me. My old Mac was seemingly bulletproof, where previously it seemed like I went through PCs every few years at most. The same seemed to be true of my friends who were PC users as well. I don’t like changing computers.

I know it is easier and faster now than it has been in the past, but I am a sucker for not making changes unless I need to. I know people who switch computers often, even every few months, but that is just not me. I’d rather stick with the same machine as long as possible.

The thing is, PC is catching up in this arena too. Maybe. Some things are too new to tell, but if you follow my rule of thumb and look at what you need and them buy one step up from that, you should, in theory, be good for a while. As fast as tech is moving, that may stop being true in the near future.

Software

One final note on software. There are still some programs that do not translate from PC to Mac. For writers, Scrivener works for both, but the Mac version is still better. If you’re using newer programs like Novel Factory, the online version works for Mac, but the desktop version does not.

The interior book formatting software called Vellum, an easy way to format both eBooks and paperbacks, is a Mac only program. There are others I am sure I am forgetting, but the point is, if you are making a switch, you might want to check the programs you prefer to use and how they work on the other platform first.

Also, if you have a great deal of money in software from one platform or another, you may have to repurchase it if licensing does not transfer. That can mean a lot of money. When I first made the switch from PC to Mac, it was easily close to $1,000 for me.

Your preferred software, and what you currently use will play a big role in the decision to switch or not to switch.

Conclusion

The Mac vs. PC debate is changing as the industry changes, and Apple becomes less edgy and more mainstream in its products and choices. Where once the craftsmanship and longevity of Apple products made the higher price worth it, recent missteps by the company have brought this into question.

For me though, two factors were the most critical. The first was operating system. I still can’t get past the Windows issues I have, and while in some ways I am open to trying again, at the moment at least it is not worth it. The other factor, quite simply is software. I have a lot of money and time invested in Mac only or Mac superior software, and I don’t want to give it up. Once you are in one ecosystem, it is hard to go back to the other without a significant cost.

So I chose to stick with Apple. I bought a newer monitor too, non-Mac LG, and a non-Mac docking station. I went with a MacBook Pro, a bit more than what I needed, but hopefully enough to take me through a few years before I need any replacements. I may add a tablet at some point, but for now docking the Pro when I am home works well enough for me.

What are your thoughts? Have an entirely different opinion? Join the discussion or let me know if you want to contribute an article of your own by emailing info_at_troylambertwrites.com. I’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts.

Partnering with Others: The Freelance Writers Den

Partnering with Others: The Freelance Writers Den

Let’s be honest. One of the hazards of being a writer is working alone. A lot. To the point where your dog can actually become your best friend because they share all your deepest conversations and secrets. The problem increases when you are getting advice from your pets when it comes to business decisions, client vetting, and new ideas to make money.

That’s where partnering with others comes in. Sometimes those partnerships are forged in person, but other times they are formed on the internet. There are a lot of places that make a lot of promises, but one that consistently delivers great learning, great content, and fantastic help when you need it is the Freelance Writer’s Den, run by Carol Tice.

Click here for more information.  

And this isn’t an empty sales pitch (although this article does contain affiliate links). This is a recommendation based on my experience, and the knowledge I have gained from being a member and engaging in webinars, free classes, and using resources found only in the Den.

Changing Job Titles

I listened to a one hour webinar online, one of the ones free to Den members, and while I learned several small things during that time, I learned one major one: your job title on LinkedIn can be a key to setting you apart from other freelancers. Having a niche, a focus, lets clients know right away if you are a fit for the job they are offering.

So I made a simple change. I changed my title from “freelance writer” to “content strategist.” What exactly did that do? Well, it told those who viewed my profile that I did more than just write blogs and web content and even SEO, which I do along with writing books, but it told them I did more.

As a result, I have created content strategy documents for brands (sometimes after writing articles for them for a long time first), I’ve raised my rates, and I’ve made more money. The simple thing is, as silly as it sounds, I would never have thought of doing that one thing until I was in the freelance writers den.

Courses and Resources

Did I mention that the hint above came in a webinar, one free to Den members? Yes? Well, the thing is there are several courses you can take along the way, all of them exceptionally valuable. Many will be geared toward the type of freelance work you want to do, but others will focus on areas you may not have thought of. Let’s face it, making a living writing is challenging, and often the solution is to diversify and learn to do different things.

Even if you are already earning a fair living as a freelance writer, there are tips and tricks on how to take your income to the next level, paying markets, emerging niches, and more. The courses and resources found in the Freelance Writers Den are truly unmatched anywhere else.

The Money

Okay, so here is the real deal: the Freelance Writers Den is inexpensive. There are a ton of other sites out there who want you to join, but they often cost way more money than what they offer. The Den is the opposite of that. You pay very little and get a lot in return. Carol Tice, who runs the den, is nothing short of Amazing with the help she offers. She brings in experts who share their tips and tricks, not to mention what you can learn from other members too.

It doesn’t matter if you write for magazines or if you write web content, blog posts, marketing copy, or what. If you are a freelance writer, or want to be one, you need to at least look at joining the Freelance Writers Den.

What Do I Get Out of All This?

Want to know a secret? Affiliate links don’t pay the bills. In fact, they usually don’t even pay for my parking in downtown Boise. It doesn’t matter. Really the purpose of this site and my upcoming Writing as a Business book(s) is to help other authors and freelancers not make some of the mistakes I made when I started out. But beyond that, it is designed to help you not make future mistakes either.

Most importantly, I want to equip authors, freelance writers, and other types of writers to do this one thing: join those of us who write for a living. We get up every single day and do the things that we love, and we get paid for them.

The Freelance Writers Den is a tool–one of many tools, but one that can help you build your business, increase your income, and change your life. Come join me! Being a part of it has been one of the best writing career decisions I have ever made as a freelancer.

 

Barnes and Noble will Probably Follow Waterstones Formula

Barnes and Noble will Probably Follow Waterstones Formula

It’s been a year of speculation about Barnes and Noble and their future, which quite honestly looked pretty bleak. Essentially the old management and ownership weren’t ready to step into the modern publishing age and learn to compete with Amazon.

And the way to do that, it turns out, comes from Amazon and their physical bookstores and even Waterstones, acquired in 2018 by Elliot Advisors. Elliot Advisors is run by a former bookseller (owner of Daunt Books) James Daunt, who will act as the B &N CEO.

What is that pattern? How will they survive and what does that mean to the business of writing?

The Publishing Precipice

Let me start by saying that I am not a fan of B & N or of traditional publishing in the modern age. It’s not the path to publication for me, but at the same time, I see that they do have a place in the publishing industry.

The problem is, there has been a balance in the publishing world for a while now. Originally, the Big 5 lost sight of their real customer, the reader. Instead, they saw their customer as the book store. So instead of marketing to readers, their attention went to book buyers, who they counted on to sell books for them and for the author.

Because they were so tied to those large publishers, B & N was reluctant to work with smaller presses and indie authors. The more authors chose those routes to publication and the more resistant B & N was to them, the more it seemed that they were missing some kind of balance.

Readers could get books for cheaper prices on Amazon, and find their favorite Indie authors, the ones the giant would not touch. But some authors still needed the traditional publishing route. And to keep bookstores in business, so did other mid-list authors. It just seemed as other giants fell, B & N was next.

Without them, big publishing houses would struggle to support their massive overhead, often covered by large B & N pre-orders. It was a dangerous house of cards, and Barnes and Noble was a huge part of it. “The loss of Barnes and Noble would have been catastrophic for the industry,” said Carolyn Reidy, president and chief executive of Simon & Schuster.

A purchase was really the best outcome for the flailing retailer and for the publishing industry overall.

The Indie Experience

As the giants fell, the Indie bookstore and Indie authors started to rise from the ashes. Local, small bookstores bought into something Barnes and Noble tried to copy and failed. They provided the shopper with tastes tailored to the market they were in–and an experience.

Going to a bookstore became about attending events, author signings and talks, classes, book clubs, and more. The local bookstore, following the lead of libraries in the digital age, has become a community meeting place. Authors and readers alike love them. We have moved back to booksellers who know their inventory, the community, and can make real, relevant recommendations.

Enter Amazon

Amazon saw this, and armed with tons of regional data, started to open their own physical bookstores, each tailored to the areas they were in. They were able to offer books they knew would sell based on what was selling online in their area.

They were also able to demo devices like the Kindle models and even tablets, giving their customers a hands-on experience similar to that provided by Apple.

It was brilliant. The challenging thing about it? Barnes and Noble had similar data and failed to use it. Amazon is also, arguably for sure, more friendly to the indie author, at least ones who are doing well. They even have their own publishing houses now and pick up authors from their Kindle publications on a regular basis.

Waterstones

Waterstones is perhaps the B & N of the UK–a large chain, they were largely tied to traditional publishers and an old school model that like their American cousins, was killing them.

And what have they done to thrive and then survive? Each Waterstones bookseller is allowed to tailor their store to suit their community and provide an experience> That is what sets each bookstore apart from making purchases online.

It’s the same type of model that Indie book stores and Amazon physical stores follow. You have data on what people in your area like, what they do, and how they operate. Quite simply, you give them the experience they are looking for, and they come back. Real readers are regular customer, like patrons at a restaurant.

So what’s next for Barnes and Noble? Well, first, an end to the warehouse-like stores with toys, records, and other non-related to books items. They will probably get smaller and more locally focused.

What does this mean to local authors? It means another place to market books–another local outlet for your work provided it is well done.

It also means, in part at least, a reprieve for the traditional publishing industry. Do they still need to evolve to survive? Yes. Relying on a single nationwide, large distribution system for survival is foolish at best. But the purchase, for now, gives them a little time to determine what their next move should be.

The purchase of Barnes and Noble is interesting even to Indie authors and booksellers. But this is only the first step, and the changes in the large, traditional publishing scene have really just begun.

Follow along here at our blog for more developments and predictions, and feel free to reach out if you have any questions about Writing as a Business. we’d love to hear from you, or just leave a comment below.

 

Making time to Write

Making time to Write

When I was young, I was told that I would never be able to make money as a writer. My stories were creative, cute, compelling, and any list of other words. But when I said I wanted to do it for a living, people laughed. Laughed. And laughed. And laughed some more.

Maybe they were right at the time. I needed a lot more practice as a writer, and I needed to decide some things about my life. Like what it meant to me to make a living and what I was willing to sacrifice to get there. I also had to realize it wasn’t just me who would make sacrifices, but those around me as well.

So when I finally found that other than writing I was pretty likely unemployable or at least had no real “career” prospects, I had to, for a long time, and a few times since, work a day job while I figured how to actually treat writing as a business. When I first started out, I had a full-time job, a family, and bills like everyone else.  So how in the world did I find time to write?

Figure Out Your Best Writing Time

Most people by the time they are really ready to do this writing thing for a living already know when their brain works, but if you don’t, it is time to figure it out. Map your time, and pay attention to how you feel when you are writing at any given time. Note before we go any further: we are looking for your best writing time, but using that particular time of day to write is not always possible. You have to write when you can, but we will talk about that more in a moment.

When you feel the best and most creative is probably the time you will write the most words in the shortest time possible. That’s great. Then, if you can, arrange your schedule so that you are writing during that time.

For most people, their ideal writing time is either early in the morning or late at night. There is usually a lull in the middle of the day or specifically mid-afternoon, where the majority of people are less creative and productive. The point is to find that ideal time for you, and try to schedule the rest of your daily activities around it. If you can’t do that, you still need to write every day. But setting aside that ideal time should be a goal for you.

Your Schedule

Writing as a business consists of three essential elements, outlined in more detail in my forthcoming book, Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing. You want to use your most creative time for writing, most of the time. However, as a creative person, you also should use your best time for developing a new marketing strategy, writing great blogs, and even for some administration tasks. To fit all this in when you are working full time is frankly pretty challenging.

  • This means you can only do a few things to free up your time.
  • Get up early or stay up late. You know when your most creative time is, so do one or the other. For a while at least, you will sacrifice some sleep.
  • Work on your breaks. This can mean lunch breaks but it can also mean dashing out a page or two on a coffee break.
  • Watch less television. As a writer you need to be reading, so don’t cut out your reading time, but you can probably watch less television. This can free up a lot of time for writing and for business.
  • Get some rest. I know, I just said you will sacrifice some sleep, and you will. But be sure on the weekends and when you can that you get some extra rest. Your muse will thank you.
  • Take care of yourself. Writers are notorious for neglecting exercise and proper diet. Take care of yourself, and your time will be more productive.
  • Set your time(s) to write as an appointment, and keep them. The only way you will write when you should is if you hold yourself to it. Be accountable to someone if you need to, but when you say you will be writing, write. Don’t do anything else at that time.

The last item is important not just to your writing time, but your Writing as a Business time. If you plan to succeed and quit that day job, you have to leave time for things other than writing. We will talk about that in another post about time management. The important thing is you need to have a schedule and stick to it.

Set Goals and Deadlines

Want to really be productive? Set deadlines and goals and hold yourself to them. This sometimes means since you don’t have a boss looking over your shoulder, you need to trick your brain or use other methods to hold yourself accountable. This applies to short term goals especially. If you have a goal to write 50K words by March, that is an easy goal to set, but unless you divide that into how much you need to write every single day to reach that goal, it can be easy to procrastinate.

If you are working with a publisher, they will usually set a deadline, and you will need to break that down into shorter goals. If you are indie published, set a public release date and force yourself to stick to it. Better yet, in either case, book yourself on an editor’s schedule and put a deposit down. Usually, if you miss that deadline, the editor will charge you extra and may have to bump your book further down in their schedule.

Partner with other writers for accountability too. Keep them focused on goals and deadlines and allow them to do the same for you. It’s important to just get your drafts done and move on. A writing partner can help you do just that.

Be Willing to Sacrifice

This is the number one stumbling block to people making the transition from writing as a sideline to writing as a business. They either do not want to give up sleep, don’t want to give up television or another vice, or they will simply say they don’t have anything they can give up to increase their writing time.

First, this is likely not true. Most people have things they do that are not necessary, and take up time they could be using to write. If you are not willing to sacrifice something, making time for your writing will be exceptionally hard, and for many impossible.

If you are going to write for a living, you are going to have to make time to write. Do you have questions? Feel free to reach out anytime. I love helping others avoid the mistakes I made.

Have something to contribute? Tips and tricks that have worked for you? I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

 

Writing is a Business

Writing is a Business

As I often say, and as I stress in my new book, Writing as a Business, coming soon, writing is a business. If you have published a book, you now have a product to sell. That means you have started a business, and you are an entrepreneur. Congratulations!

“But I am not a good business person,” you say. “I just want to write, not run a business!”

Good luck with that. Unless you have someone to run the business side for you, there will forever be administrative work to do. It is the nature of publishing, You need three things: production, distribution, and marketing.

Production

This not only includes writing some words, but rewriting, editing, cover design, interior formatting, and more. Many authors get stuck in this phase and never really get out of it. Not only does my new book cover this, but we will talk about it on this blog as well.

Distribution

You have to get your work in the hands of others, and that means distributing it as widely as possible. What does this mean and how do you really do it? We will explore your options here, and what they look like. There should be reasons for every decision you make, and they should all be related to reaching your readers in a more meaningful way where they are.

This means you need to know who they are, where they hang out, and how they would like you to get in touch. This can be complicated, and it changes all the time.

Marketing

This is the most dreaded word in the writer world, but it is important. We will talk about all aspects of it here, from word of mouth to paid ads. What kind of marketing do you need? The answer is usually a bit of everything. We will talk about what that blend looks like and how much you need to budget for getting the word out about your books. It is going to cost you.

Contributions

Are you someone who writes for a living or wants to? Do you make money from your writing and want to share your approach and the business end of the writing life? Get in touch with me at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you, and what value you can add to the discussion.

Stay tuned. More great stuff to come.

Learn to Treat Writing as a Business

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